News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


Time is right to review Decatur schools' discipline

High school administrators have a tough job. Getting 1,000 or more young people from point A to point B in a coordinated, civilized manner is no small task. Things can and do go wrong on a daily basis.

When they do — when Paul and Jay have an altercation or when Emily is late to class — it is up to administrators to determine the appropriate punishment.

Listening is usually a crucial part of this process. Perhaps Emily was late because a teacher kept her after her previous class to discuss homework. Maybe Paul and Jay have more serious issues that need to be dealt with by the police.

But because administrators are busy people, and because students almost always have excuses — whether valid or invalid — for inappropriate behavior, sometimes the listening might not get the attention it deserves. Sometimes, the punishment does not fit the violation.

A group of black parents and grandparents told the Decatur school board Tuesday that their children are being treated unfairly in disciplinary matters. They said race was a factor in how school administrators decide punishment.

Among the complaints were inconsistent penalties for identical violations, excessive punishment for relatively minor violations, delayed parental notification and a lack of willingness on the part of teachers and administrators to listen to parents and students when deciding punishment.

The same complaints, however, have been made by white parents and students.

Regardless of race, the perception is that Decatur school administrators sometimes punish students unfairly and inconsistently.

A review of school disciplinary policies and how they are administered is appropriate.

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